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told a group of minority business owners that blacks “lack the intellectual capacity to succeed, and it’s taking them down the tubes. . . . In Rhodesia, the economy was booming under white management. Now, in Zimbabwe, under black management it is a disaster. . . . One of the best things they [slave traders] did for you is to drag your ancestors over here in chains.” 1/ According to the March issue of Texas Co-op Power, President Reagan’s budget for 1985 includes cuts in rural electric loans by more than 50 % , increases in interest rates on REA loans to co-ops to more than twice the current rate, and a surcharge on loans to cover administrative costs. Robert D. Partridge of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association said the proposal “would not only cause the electric rates of rural electric cooperatives to skyrocket, sharply penalizing millions of cunsumers, but compound the difficulties these systems already face in meeting the unique needs of the nation’s countryside.” 1/ Rep. John Bryant of Dallas has placed into the Congressional Record a guest column by Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts in Rolling Stone in which, as Bryant said, Kennedy discussed “the President’s record versus the rhetoric of his recent State of the Union address.” 1/ On March 20, Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower and Governor Mark White inaugurated the Family Farm and Ranch Security Act, designed to help new farmers get financing in order to buy land and begin the business of agriculture. The act allows the Agriculture Commissioner to guarantee up to 90% of the amount of a family farm and ranch security loan for applicants with a net worth of less than $100,000 who intend to use the farm or ranchland as a primary occupation. “The average age of Texas farmers and ranchers today is 52 years and rising,” Hightower said, “because the number of young Texans entering our most basic industry has slowed to a trickle. There are plenty of qualified, capable individuals out there who want to farm or ranch, but the combination of depressed commodity prices and skyrocketing production costs has just about slammed the door on them.” The Family Farm and Ranch Security Act, devised with the backing of the Texas Farmers Union, was kicked off on the farm of Dan Berdoll near Del Valle, east of Austin. The Berdoll farm is the site of a state demonstration project to test the use of farm-produced methane and ethanol as a substitute for traditional fuels. An anaerobic digester converts hog manure into methane gas and ethanol, which heat the swine barns and power various farm vehicles and the digester plant itself. The effluent from the digester is used as a fertilizer in the farm’s grain and hay fields. After the inauguration ceremony, White and Hightower treated various officials to a “taste of Texas,” including barbecued pork ribs. Hightower said, “It may be your only opportunity to eat pork ribs, then console the bereaved afterwards. ” BOOKS AND THE CULTURE `Previewing Crackerjack Play By Ray Reece Austin IN THE FEBRUARY 24 Observer, in an article accompanying my review of “Pancho Villa’s Wedding Day” by Edwin Shrake, I alluded to a “healthy renaissance” that seems to be emerging in Austin theater, “with a growing number of original plays being written for production in local houses.” The newest bloom on that flower of original drama is a two-act Dixie tragicomedy entitled “Cracker Jack” by Lawrence Wright, an Austin writer and contributing editor of Texas Monthly. The play will run from April 18 through April 22 at the Paramount Theater in Austin, and it looks to me like another keeper for Live Oak Productions, a nonprofit Austin theater company now concluding its second year of operation. Live Oak artistic director Mac Williams, who recently provided Austin playgoers with successful renditions of “A Moon Ray Reece is a freelance writer living in Austin. for the Misbegotten” and “Time of Your Life,” will guide the staging of “Cracker Jack” as well. The strength of the play, if it succeeds, will derive in large measure from Lawrence Wright’s script, which is tight and aromatic: a manic froth of humor and pathos bubbling through the final hours of a dying ex-governor of a southern state \(Georgia, and/or Alaor “Jack” for short, hence “Cracker Jack,” as in southern bigot. Much of the drama, shuttling in time between the “Guvnah’s” dying present and his unregenerate political past, is clearly keyed to certain famous and shameful episodes of the southern civil rights struggle, observed firsthand by the playwright during his tenure as a journalist in the South. This lends the play a historical resonance that will echo loudly for many viewers affected by the events of the civil rights struggles in the 1950’s and 1960’s. But the crux of the play, the fulcrum on which it will balance or fall, is “Guvnah” Jack Tidwell, the irascible racist and hammy demagogue, who is suddenly anxious to clean up his act or at least his “image” before his rendering as maggot pie and the casting off of his tainted soul for points unknown. He has a lot of work to do, having garnered the loathing not only of “the masses” who once odored him but also of his wife, Addie, his nine illegitimate “chirren,” his former closest friends, and his black, long-suffering chauffeur, Fleetwood. The comic substance of “Cracker Jack” arises less from the doomed-soul motif of the play which verges on theatrical clicM than from its warren of tack-sharp characters, its authentic dialects, its lexicon of insights into the “evil” that politicians do, and its bounty of potentially hilarious one-liners. The “Guvnah,” for example, in disputing the notion that F.D.R. was a “socialist,” says to a bedstander: “Now Julian, here’s where you confuse the Democrats with the international social THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19